Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Brunner, Edward


This thesis explores the extended sequences of John Ashbery and Susan Wheeler to demonstrate the shared sensibility among the artists and poets in the changing mode of ekphrasis in contemporary American poetry. Ekphrasis is often theorized to provide a representational similarity between a poem and the artwork the poem refers to. However, Ashbery’s and Wheeler’s poetics of engaging with the artwork suggest the limitations of looking at creative practices simply as representation, and this study contends that the differences in expressive qualities of the two media necessitate a distinction between the forms of two media, verbal and visual, if we are to understand the potential of both visual and verbal as they come together in this shared artistic practice of ekphrasis. Unlike in the representational understanding of ekphrasis, which is grounded in absence of the artwork, I contend that ekphrastic poems are poets’ mode of presenting the artwork and inviting the audience to respond to both artwork and poem in this mediating presence of ekphrasis. If poets use this mode of writing poetry, they use this ekphrastic occasion in order to differentiate verbal form from the visual and to invite the audience to share the view of the artist mediated by the poem so that we can understand how various concepts of creative forms are realized differently in these two media while sympathizing with the critique of artistic borrowings that these poets have to offer us.




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